The Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM – the EU trade mark office) has announced the introduction of a new accelerated procedure for handling Community Trade Mark (CTM) applications.  ‘Fast Track’ guarantees that the early stages of the CTM application process will be dealt with quickly by providing for the expedited examination and publication of applications (in just half the time of regular applications, according to OHIM).  For straightforward, unopposed applications, this could result in quicker registration times overall. 

Fast Track is free of charge.  An application will be automatically allocated to the track provided it meets certain conditions listed on OHIM’s website.  In particular, the application fee must be paid on filing the application (which seems to be a reasonable pre-condition of ‘jumping the queue’).  In addition, the goods/services to be covered by the mark must be selected from OHIM’s harmonised database of accepted terms and not independently drafted by the applicant.  These accepted terms have already been translated (meaning no translation delays) and pre-validated (reducing the likelihood of classification deficiencies).  This latter condition may cause some practical difficulties, particularly for non-EU applicants who want to ensure they have consistent trade mark protection both within and outside Europe but who may also be constrained in how the goods/services are described by trade mark practice in non-EU territories (such as the US).  It remains to be seen whether the Fast Track process will be refined over time to also accept applications where the specification of goods/services has been independently drafted by the applicant.

Fast Track came into operation on 24 November 2014. Overall, it is good news for trade mark applicants who could benefit from obtaining EU-wide trade mark protection more quickly.  Fast Track is, however, unlikely to make a difference in the case of more complex, opposed applications.